Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2011


The end of my master's degree is in sight, so I applied for graduation today. One would think that would be a pretty straightforward process. You click on the application form, you confirm the details that the university has on record for you, pay the $40 with a credit card, and hit submit. Whoa, not so fast. One of the details that continues to be amusing/frustrating/difficult to explain in this province is my name. It gets a little complicated, but here goes.

In Quebec, one's legal name is their name at birth. Hence, on all legal and provincial documents, the name used is the name that appears on my birth certificate. I can't change how they do things here, though Dean has expended quite a few vehement words and wagged a few of his meaty fingers in bureaucratic faces in various attempts. This NAB (name at birth) principle also applies to the health care system and to the educational system. I always have to pay special care when I go to the doctor's office because th…


March has been a bit crazy for me thus far. I am on the final push to finish my master's thesis, have to decide where to do a PhD in fall, am busy building an academic CV (presenting, publishing, applying for awards, etc.), and trying to fit in a normal healthy life with family and friends and a faith community. Oh, and insert coursework, lecturing on occasion, and some research on monasticism that is fun, but never-ending. In the past week, I came across two principles that made me sigh with relief and say a hearty YES at the same time, because they reminded me where this is all going and how it needs to happen. In case someone else needs help with those two things as well, I write about them here:

I don't need to promote myself. I heard this advice from a musician who works mostly in the church, but I find that this principle resonates very deep within me in my current setting. It affirms that I don't need to build the perfect CV (which lists all my incredible accomplish…

the many faces of "I don't know"

My thesis on Evelyn Underhill is coming along slowly but surely, thanks for asking. In my last post I pointed out some of her shortcomings, which was mainly due to the fact that I was immersed in a chapter dealing with her critics. If I was to write about her today, I would tell you about her struggles and how they positively informed her spiritual journey (the current section I am working on). My thoughts tend to reflect where I am in the writing process, so please know (oops, spilled some tea, cleaned up the mess) that I am fond of Underhill and feel that I have a lot to learn from her.

Okay, now that I cleared that up, I want to write about something else I have been thinking about lately. It is the commonly used phrase, "I don't know." As a student, I say this a lot, though I try to word it more eloquently using phrases that go something like "Oh, I have often wondered about that as well." As a teaching assistant, I probably say it even more often, because q…


I am in the middle of writing my master's thesis on Evelyn Underhill, a British writer on mysticism from the early twentieth century. Last night I was working on the section that deals with her personal correspondence; it is interesting to see how a spiritual journey is reflected in language. In contrast to the personal letters, her published books carry a certain sense of distance from her subject, the necessary academic objectivity, one might say. But to go along with that, I also get the feeling in many of her early books that she doesn't quite grasp what she is talking about (sorry, Evelyn!).
There is something about being intimate with one's subject, about letting knowledge come through you and touch something deep inside of you, changing you before you pass it on to others. It modifies how you deliver the message, because you are not just passing on knowledge, like participants do in a relay race; you are handing on something you have lived with and learned to love.

getting down

This morning, one of my facebook friends announced that he was uncluttering his "friend" list. He said that due to the sheer number of said "friends," he was finding himself overlooking the important people in his life. Never an easy position to be in - whittling life down to the truly important things. In an interesting twist, he has asked his many "friends" to purge themselves from his list. Are any of us that brave? That humble? To "defriend" and reject ourselves in order to assist our "friend?" It is an odd invitation, though I dare say, perhaps more familiar to us than we might realise.

Last night I led a discussion on humility. I took some of the core values from the Benedectine Order (one of my side research projects) and read a few stories to illustrate the foundational part that humility plays (or rather, should play) in our lives. Here are a few ideas that came out:

1. Listening. So often we are occupied with outside stimuli su…

saying no

As part of a call to prayer that our faith community is involved in, I am fasting this week. This means that I give something up (usually food) for a set time for a spiritual purpose. Fasting and prayer are ancient spiritual practices, often done in tandem, but their link is not always understood. Basically, I see it as two sides of the same discipline: fasting is saying no to myself and praying is saying yes to Jesus. One is meant to fuel the other.

A few years ago I heard somewhere that a square of dark chocolate a day is good for you, so I thought I would buy some and have it on hand so that I could nibble on a piece now and then. I also discovered the yumminess of Chai tea a few years ago, so now it seemed natural to have a piece of chocolate with my tea. While doing schoolwork or working on a writing project, I go through numerous cups of tea a day, and it became a habit that after I made my cup of tea, I would reach in the cupboard for the chocolate. What had begun as an occasion…

when are you?

I am not a big history fan. This can be a bit challenging when so much of what I am studying, especially this term, has to do with history. Some of my colleagues love the adventure that comes with a sense of the past, and historical details come easily to them. I tend to struggle a bit more with this linear way of looking at the world and have to make an effort to grasp the bigger picture. But there are other things I do see quite well, like the human element present in history and the impact of interesting personalities in our world. This is because I am basically a PRESENT person.

If you are a PAST person, you tend to think about what has happened. On the plus side of this, you would make a great history professor and can handle a great deal of information and detail about events with relative ease because the past is important and interesting to you. The past is also stable - it won't change - which, although it means that you can't alter it, also means that you are always …